SsangYong Utes

Todd Prujean fends off Daniel Connor in SsangYong Pukekohe opener

Todd Prujean has won the opening race of the SsangYong Race Series weekend at Pukekohe Raceway, after a tense race with three different race leaders. 


It was Daniel Connor started from pole, with Christina Orr-West alongside him and the combination of Murray Brook and Prujean.


Of the group, Prujean got the best of the starts, emerging in second place in the lap-one jostling behind Connor. By lap two, the MWN Civil–backed driver had passed Connor for the lead. 


It proved to be a difficult opening few laps for Connor as the chasing pack attacked. Stoneman, Orr-West, and Murray Brook all charged by the youngster, while simultaneously it looked like Prujean was getting away with a clear-cut win. 


However, Connor soon regained some composure, and the leading Prujean began to be reeled in by the surprise packet Brook (having gotten around Orr-West, Stoneman and co to sit second). 


With four laps to go, the race once again looked settled into a rhythm — a two-car battle pack between Prujean and and Brook, and a multi-car gaggle headed by the recovering Connor fighting for third. 


But, once again, the momentum shifted. The pace that earned pole for Connor appeared to be back on his side, and with a lap to go he had bridged the gap between the two groups while also getting past the fading Brooks. 


It meant a grandstand finish was imminent between Prujean and Connor. As the lap progressed the margin tightened, and Connor put himself in a position to challenge with the aid of the draft. 


Rising over Ford Mountain for the last time he leaped out from the draft to run around Prujean's outside. There was overlap as the chequered flag loomed at the end of the straight but in the end Prujean took the win by approximately half a ute-length. 


Brook, Orr-West, and Stoneman completed the top five. 2kCup Series regulars James Watson and Mark Mallard were sixth and seventh, with the top 10 completed by Morgan Foster, Tom Vanderloos, and Australian Charlotte Poynting. 


Photo: Geoff Ridder